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Cynthia Armistead

Member since: May 21st, 2007

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BookSwim: just like the public library, but $24 per month (Download Squad)

May 21st 2007 9:19PM Our family has used the library heavily everywhere we've lived, and we're very familiar with interlibrary loan requests. We use the resources of the university library for the school at which I take online classes and the county library here where we live.

Unfortunately, the university isn't big on popular fiction, and the county library just doesn't acquire new genre fiction. My partner, daughter and I are serious readers of science fiction, fantasy, and mystery books. We only keep special books that we know we'll want to re-read and pass on to friends.

Most libraries (ours included) will not request or fill an interlibrary loan for new books - anywhere from 6 months to 2 years old. Ours also charges $3 for every request filed, whether it is ever filled or not. There's no automated way to check on them, either - everything about them seems to have one foot stuck in the 1930s.

Each and every request has to be filed on a separate, hand-written form. You can't put in a request for "The Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher." No, you have to fill out nine pieces of paper, one for each book, and pay $27 when you hand those nine pieces of paper to a librarian - then stand there correcting her while she laboriously types them into a computer.

And then you wait. Someday, you may suddenly get an automated call saying that a book you requested has arrived (all other notifications come via email). The loan period began the day the book left its home library, so the clock is already ticking. If you miss that one call (their system doesn't handle voice mail well) or are out of town! The loan period is set by the library that owns the book, and it could be as brief as a week or as long as a month - but you can't renew the book if you don't finish it in time. That "due by" date is chiseled in stone!

Honestly, I've never dealt with any other library that was so difficult about interlibrary loans. I've used them in many other county library systems as well as in several school libraries without a hassle. Obviously, someone in this county system just doesn't want to deal with them. But since it's the only library to which we have access that carries any fiction to speak of, it makes BookSwim look pretty good!